Stand clear of the closing doors, please

17th of October 2017

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Travelling internationally in an airplane is proof that under the right conditions, humans can be controlled, corralled and coerced to do almost anything. 

After flying, sitting, watching and queuing for 22 hours it was only when I landed in New York and went to my “apartment” that the longest Monday of my life turned like full cream milk left in the glovebox of a 1990 Mazda hatchback on a 35° day. The cab driver dropped me off and left unnervingly fast. As I entered the “apartment” that I had rented and paid upfront for four weeks all the anxiety of the past six months that I had kept carefully contained broke the walls of the dam and flooded the nearby township. The air in the apartment was old and still with a crocheted blanket covering its legs. The noises that emanated from the walls, floor and ceiling called all night for the lost souls who weren’t there. The power sockets were hanging from the wall like a pawnshop painting and the bed…oh my god…the bed, it did not want me in it. 

The scariest thing about jet-lag is it is one of the few occasions where you are forced to hang out with yourself and as I lay there for many hours trying to sleep, trying to relax, trying to contain my anxiety, guilt and confusion, in a room that seemed to feed on negative self-worth, I wished I was with somebody else, anybody else, but me."


27th of October 2017 

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My senses were on high alert as I boarded the subway with two large sheets of foam core. My goal for every subway trip is to cause the least amount of disruption to the fabric of time and space as possible to prevent people confirming that I have no place being here and my pursuit of this international opportunity is folly as I am essentially mediocre…but perhaps I’m over-thinking it. I found a seat in the corner and tried to camouflage my two large sheets of form core under an imaginary cloak of ‘nothing to see here’. What I didn’t see was the warmth of the previous sitter, still on the seat, so I sat in it. Having been alone for the past few weeks the warmth of another human caused an equally unsettling and strangely comforting sensation. The rush of sitting in warmth of a stranger, who was rushing home to see if their flatmate had eaten their bacon (they had), was diminished as my presence started to overweigh their absence and I was left in the corner with my two large sheets of foam core.


3rd of November 2017 

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I was in-between houses and needed a place to stay and my friend generously offered me a place in her apartment. When you get older your body makes more noise, some voluntary but most…not so much. So when I stay with people who aren’t family I get quite nervous about the volume and timbre emanating from me. I was anxious to get back to their apartment, to collect my things and move to a new place. I had just gotten out of the subway, found my bearings and was waiting to cross a set lights when a lady leaned over and said,

“I’ll suck your dick for five dollars”.

“Sorry”

She turned, walked away and I crossed the lights.


21st of November 2017 

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My twenties were about defining myself by what I consumed and my forties is defined by what I have given up and while my diet has never been an item on my CV it has kept me happy, alive and ready for adventure. For the past 15 years I have had the levelling influence of my wife and three children to occupy my waking thoughts and provide me with a responsibility that extends beyond me. For the start of the residency I was on my own for four weeks and I’m not too proud to say that, I regressed. I was like a summer lawn all unkempt and messy with strange bugs floating around looking for a place to land. Food was no longer medium specific but became truly interdisciplinary; Turkey Bacon…yep, Chicken fried Steak…bring it on, Buffalo wing pizza…all right, Macaroni and Cheese Chili Fries...now your being silly, but I’ll still eat it.


5th of December 2017 

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The former campaign manager of the current President of the United States of America, Donald J Trump, was indicted for, among other things, money laundering. I was on the subway trying to follow the story by waiting till each stop to update my Twitter feed when I found out that a classmate from high school had passed away from cancer. I haven’t seen anyone from school in over 25 years. I lost contact with them after I started studying photography and got tired of them asking if I was going to shoot for Playboy.

So when Frank passed away people expressed appreciation at the ongoing friendship that our class had maintained as many of them have become isolated from their community through death, divorce or work. The comfort felt through regaining a connection to your past has been of great solace. One classmate reflected on his own life and expressed profound relief that he had rediscovered an old community that he felt comfort in. Reading the post on Facebook and viewing it through my own fractured prism of my youth I viewed this honest expression of relief with cynicism.

Cynicism has always been easy for me. The self-serving narrative, about the community I grew up in, that I have chosen as reality is that I was different, not understood and isolated from them. The narrative I have not been wanting to pursue is that I was the one who isolated my community.  


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Martin Smith's works are exhibited regularly both in Australia and internationally. In 2007 Smith was included in Primavera at the MCA Sydney. His works are held in the collections of Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Monash City Gallery, the Museum of Old and New Art, University of Queensland Art Museum, Artbank and private collections in Australia and France. He has been awarded the Veolia Prize, the Prometheus Award, the Clayton Utz Travelling Scholarship and grants through Arts Queensland, the Australia Council and Griffith University. In 2013 he exhibited at United Photo Industries in Brooklyn and was included in 13th Dong Gang International Photo Festival in South Korea. In 2017 Smith received funding from the Australia Council and Arts Queensland to compete a 3 month studio residency at the NARS Foundation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.